Three Black men found hanging from trees spark concern of America’s lynching past

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Recent hangings draw concern in the height of anti-Black violence protests.

The FBI and Department of Justice announced that it would investigate the hanging deaths of Robert L. Fuller, 24, and Malcom Harsch, 38, in the Los Angeles suburbs. 

On May 31, Harsch was found hanging from a tree in Victorville, a desert community about 60 miles from the city of Los Angeles. Ten days later, on June 10, Fuller’s body was discovered in Palmdale, another desert city outside of LA, but still within LA County. While both deaths were ruled suicides by local law enforcement, the families of Fuller and Harsch believe otherwise.

“I feel like somebody murdered my best friend and they used this tree to cover it up,” said Tommie Anderson to local ABC7 about Fuller at an outdoor memorial where his body was found. 

“There’s a lot of Black Lives Matter things going on and I feel like they want to put it on – it was mental issues, it was depression, it was something other than the fact that a young man was hung from a tree.”

In the case of Harsch, an Ohio native, a petition calling for further investigations revealed that a USB cord was used in the hanging. An interview with Harsch’s family by Victor Valley News also reports that he was not dangling from the tree, but his 6 foot 3 body hung from a branch with blood on his shirt. Local authorities said there was no foul play involved.

Palmdale and Victorville have a history of local authorities anti-Black tactics to antagonize and harass Black residents. In 2012, the city of Palmdale settled with the housing section of the DOJ due to its lawsuit claiming that the local sheriff’s department and social services headquarters worked in tandem to intimidate and surveillance Black residents who migrated to the suburbs from the city.

In days close two Harsch and Fuller, one more Black male death by hanging, and specifically from a tree were reported. In Manhattan, a pedestrian found a Black male suspended from a tree on June 9. Authorities have yet to reveal the person’s identity.

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These latest hangings are part of a series of deaths ruled as suicides, but have been contested by family. In 2019, Ferguson-based activist Melissa McKinnies’ son was found hanging in her backyard. McKinnies claims that she was a target by law enforcement for her activism.

In 2018, a Black male was discovered hanging from a bridge  by the Atlanta University Center, an area known for its concentration of prestigious HBCUs. Then in 2016, a young Black man was found hanging near a Nelson Mandela monument in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.

Claudia Lacy, mother of Lennon Lacy believes her 17-year-old son, a high school football player who was found hanging from a swing in a North Carolina trailer park, was also killed. Years before, in 2010, a Jackson, Mississippi autopsy in the hanging death of 24-year-old Frederick Jermaine Carter was shown to be inconclusive, leaving many local African Americans concerned about a specific type of racial violence of Black male lynchings.

Local California law enforcement says that it will cooperated with the FBI investigation into Fuller and Harsch.

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